2011/2012 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited review: Unusual, even for Subaru

2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

Subaru has a peculiar lineup for the Legacy. At first look, there are apparently two basic models, the Legacy 2.5 and the Legacy 3.6. But here’s where it gets interesting. Not all 2.5-liter Legacys are alike, as there’s a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated horizontally-opposed four and a 2.5-liter turbocharged horizontally-opposed four. Then add to this the 3.6-liter horizontally-opposed six-cylinder. It’s the latter, as a 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, that we tested.

Not leaving it at that, however, the 2.5 turbo, which goes as the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited, is not only more expensive than the non-turbo Legacy 2.5i, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited, it’s also priced higher than not only the Legacy 3.6R Limited, (and of course the Legacy 3.6R and the 2.6R Premium).

2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited interior

The interior of the 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited is well finished, but the lack of a navigation system screen leaves a large blank space in dash. (Click to enlarge).

Confused yet? Remember it this way: The 2.5i is “injected,” but isn’t everything these days? So it’s the base model. The “GT” in 2.5GT stands for “Got a Turbo,” while the “R” in 3.6R means “Refined.”

We say the latter because the Subaru horizontally-opposed fours, although vibration free because of the inherent balance of that type of engine, have traditionally have had a sort of growly nature. It’s not bad, but it’s different. And Subaru, except Scion with the forthcoming Scion FRS—and it has a Subaru engine—is the only carmaker today that uses that engine configuration.

Unlike every other Subaru, however, the horizontally-opposed engine in the Legacy 3.6R models is a six, and not only does it have a natural balance, it’s smoother than buttermilk poured over an egg. If there’s a grand tourer in the lot, it’s the Legacy 3.6R.

Our tester was a 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited. We could have fudged and said it’s a 2012 Subaru 3.6R Limited, because there’s no change between the 2011 Legacy models other than the packaging of the audio systems and trim item. And dear reader would never have known the difference. So pretend it’s a 2012. We won’t mind.

2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

The 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited in controversial Carmel Bronze Pearl.

In fact, there’s little to mind with the Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited regardless of year. Subaru has fine honed the exterior styling, and unlike the traditional oddball attempts at Imprezza designs—not to mention the Subaru Tribeca—the current Legacy has a classy, almost elegant exterior design. The grille, with its wing-like crossbar, not only looks good but it’s distinctive as well.

Panache outside is equaled panache inside, at least in our test Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited. The dark gray over camel is classy as a new overcoat. The door panels have perforated-look vinyl trim that matches the actually-perforated leather-trimmed seats. The seats, by the way, are long distance comfortable, good for all-day sitting, and the back seat comes with generous leg and headroom.

2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited instrument panel

The 2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited instrument panel has an unusual gauge that measures instant fuel economy compared to average fuel economy.

An information center is scalloped into the top of the dash with all the usual data. The audio system’s RDS info is shown on the info center but with so few characters it’s barely worth the effort. Our test model did not have a navigation system, and as a result there’s a big blank area on the center stack.

The instrument panel has the usual tachometer and speedometer with a fuel gauge to the right. On the left, however, is a gauge that displays on a current basis whether one is doing better or worse than the average fuel mileage achieved so far. Keeping the needle above horizontal becomes something like winning “the most improved” award. The temperature gauge is replaced by cold and hot warning lights.